WHO calls emergency meeting as top 100 monkeypox cases in Europe


UK offers smallpox vaccination as cases of monkeypox spread across Europe

A section of skin tissue taken from a lesion on the skin of a monkey infected with the monkeypox virus is seen at 50x magnification on the fourth day of the rash’s development in 1968. CDC/Handout via REUTERS

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  • Cases in nine European countries, North America, Australia
  • Cause still unclear
  • WHO is holding an emergency meeting to discuss cases
  • Germany says biggest outbreak ever in Europe

LONDON, May 20 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization held an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the recent outbreak of monkeypox, a viral infection more common in west and central Africa, after over 100 cases were confirmed or suspected in Europe.

In what Germany described as the biggest outbreak in Europe ever, cases were reported in at least nine countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom – as well as the United States. Canada and Australia.

Spain reported 24 new cases on Friday, mainly in the Madrid region, where the regional government has closed a sauna linked to the highest number of infections. Continue reading

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A hospital in Israel treated a man in his 30s who was showing symptoms consistent with the disease after recently arriving from western Europe.

The disease, first identified in monkeys, typically spreads through close contact and has rarely spread outside of Africa, making this case series a cause for concern.

However, scientists do not expect the outbreak to develop into a pandemic like COVID-19 because the virus does not spread as easily as SARS-COV-2.

Monkeypox is usually a mild viral disease characterized by feverish symptoms along with a characteristic bumpy rash.

“This is the largest and most widespread outbreak of monkeypox ever observed in Europe,” said the Bundeswehr Medical Service, which discovered its first case in the country on Friday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) committee to consider this issue is the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential (STAG-IH), which advises on the risks of infection that could pose a global health threat.

It would not be responsible for deciding whether the outbreak should be declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the WHO’s highest alert level currently applied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There appears to be a low risk to the general public at this time,” said a senior US government official. Continue reading


Fabian Leendertz from the Robert Koch Institute described the outbreak as an epidemic.

“However, it is very unlikely that this epidemic will last long. Cases are well isolated via contact tracing and there are also medicines and effective vaccines that can be used when needed,” he said.

Still, the WHO Europe chief said he was concerned infections in the region could accelerate as people gather for parties and festivals in the summer months. Continue reading

There is no specific vaccine against monkeypox, but data shows that vaccines used to eradicate smallpox are 85% effective against monkeypox, according to the WHO.

British authorities said they had offered a smallpox vaccine to some healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed to monkeypox. Continue reading

Since 1970, cases of monkeypox have been reported in 11 African countries. Nigeria has had a major ongoing outbreak since 2017. According to the WHO, there have been 46 suspected cases so far this year, 15 of which have since been confirmed.

The first European case was confirmed on May 7 in a person who had returned to England from Nigeria.

Since then, over 100 cases have been confirmed outside of Africa, according to a tracker by an Oxford University academic.

Many of the cases are not related to travel to the continent. As a result, the cause of this outbreak is unclear, although health officials have stated that there may be some level of community spread.


The WHO said the early cases were unusual for three reasons: all but one have no relevant travel history to areas where monkeypox is endemic; Most are detected by sexual health services and in men who have sex with men, and the wide geographic distribution across Europe and beyond suggests transmission may have been ongoing for some time.

In Britain, where 20 cases have now been confirmed, the UK Health Security Agency said recent cases in the country have mostly been in men who self-identified as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.

Portugal detected nine more cases on Friday, bringing the total to 23.

The previous tally of 14 cases were all discovered at sexual health clinics and involved men between the ages of 20 and 40 who self-identified as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.

It’s too early to tell if the disease has turned into a sexually transmitted disease, said Alessio D’Amato, health commissioner for the Lazio region of Italy. So far, three cases have been reported in the country. Continue reading

“The idea that there’s some sort of sexual transmission going on is a little far-fetched, I think,” said Stuart Neil, professor of virology at Kings College London.

Scientists are sequencing the virus from different cases to see if they are linked, the WHO said. The agency is expected to provide an update soon.

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Reporting by Jennifer Rigby and Natalie Grover in London; additional reporting from Emma Pinedo Gonzalez, Emma Farge, Catriona Demony, Patricia Weiss, Eric Beech, Dan Williams and Michael Erman; writing by Josephine Mason and Costas Pitas; Edited by Nick Macfie, David Clarke and Bill Berkrot

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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